For Charles Mingus’s centennial, DownBeat asked me to do a deep dive on the composer, bassist and singular American cultural figure. In this package of three pieces, I explore the place Mingus occupies in the popular imagination, by all accounts well-deserved, as a force of nature, an iconoclastic truth-teller, a volatile, emotional man with a violent streak. But his many friends and fellow musicians, people who knew and loved him, remember a different side: the spiritual seeker, poet, esthete and philosopher; the bandleader who took pains to treat his musicians fairly; and, above all, the artist he was right down to his bone marrow. Among the artists and critics I interviewed: Christian McBride, Charles McPherson, biographer Brian Priestley, and Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Vincent Gardner, who served as musical director for JALC’s Mingus centennial tribute. The main article is here. A sidebar on the making of “Epitaph,” Mingus’s magnum opus, is here. Another piece about new Mingus recordings and tributes is here.
Category Archives: Christian McBride
I’m excited that so many of my favorite artists and interview subjects are nominated for 2021 Grammys! The list includes John Beasley; Kurt Elling, featuring Danilo Perez; Kenny Washington; Becca Stevens; Chico Pinheiro; Maria Schneider; Alan Broadbent; Chick Corea; Christian McBride; Brian Blade; Terri Lyne Carrington, and Jacob Collier (album of the year, no less!). Big congratulations to all. And stay tuned for my upcoming portrait of John “Killer Beas” Beasley in JazzTimes.
2. Album Of The Year
Award to Artist(s) and to Featured Artist(s), Songwriter(s) of new material, Producer(s), Recording Engineer(s), Mixer(s) and Mastering Engineer(s) credited with at least 33% playing time of the album, if other than Artist.
Fisticuffs & Julian-Quán Việt Lê, producers; Fisticuffs, Julian-Quán Việt Lê, Zeke Mishanec, Christian Plata & Gregg Rominiecki, engineers/mixers; Jhené Aiko Efuru Chilombo, Julian-Quán Việt Lê, Maclean Robinson & Brian Keith Warfield, songwriters; Dave Kutch, mastering engineer
- BLACK PUMAS (DELUXE EDITION)
Jon Kaplan & Adrian Quesada, producers; Adrian Quesada, Jacob Sciba, Stuart Sikes & Erik Wofford, engineers/mixers; Eric Burton & Adrian Quesada, songwriters; JJ Golden, mastering engineer
- EVERYDAY LIFE
Daniel Green, Bill Rahko & Rik Simpson, producers; Mark “Spike” Stent, engineer/mixer; Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland, Will Champion & Chris Martin, songwriters; Emily Lazar, mastering engineer
- DJESSE VOL.3
Jacob Collier, producer; Ben Bloomberg & Jacob Collier, engineers/mixers; Jacob Collier, songwriter; Chris Allgood & Emily Lazar, mastering engineers
- WOMEN IN MUSIC PT. III
Rostam Batmanglij, Danielle Haim & Ariel Rechtshaid, producers; Rostam Batmanglij, Jasmine Chen, John DeBold, Matt DiMona, Tom Elmhirst, Joey Messina-Doerning & Ariel Rechtshaid, engineers/mixers; Rostam Batmanglij, Alana Haim, Danielle Haim, Este Haim & Ariel Rechtshaid, songwriters; Emily Lazar, mastering engineer
- FUTURE NOSTALGIA
Koz, producer; Josh Gudwin & Cameron Gower Poole, engineers/mixers; Clarence Coffee Jr. & Dua Lipa, songwriters; Chris Gehringer, mastering engineer
- HOLLYWOOD’S BLEEDING
Louis Bell & Frank Dukes, producers; Louis Bell & Manny Marroquin, engineers/mixers; Louis Bell, Adam Feeney, Austin Post & Billy Walsh, songwriters; Mike Bozzi, mastering engineer
Jack Antonoff, Aaron Dessner & Taylor Swift, producers; Jack Antonoff, Aaron Dessner, Serban Ghenea, John Hanes, Jonathan Low & Laura Sisk, engineers/mixers; Aaron Dessner & Taylor Swift, songwriters; Randy Merrill, mastering engineer
31. Best Improvised Jazz Solo
For an instrumental jazz solo performance. Two equal performers on one recording may be eligible as one entry. If the soloist listed appears on a recording billed to another artist, the latter’s name is in parenthesis for identification. Singles or Tracks only.
Christian Scott Atunde Adjuah, soloist
Track from: Axiom
Regina Carter, soloist
Track from: Ona (Thana Alexa)
Gerald Clayton, soloist
- ALL BLUES
Chick Corea, soloist
Track from: Trilogy 2 (Chick Corea, Christian McBride & Brian Blade)
- MOE HONK
Joshua Redman, soloist
Track from: RoundAgain (Redman Mehldau McBride Blade)
32. Best Jazz Vocal Album
For albums containing at least 51% playing time of new vocal jazz recordings.
- SECRETS ARE THE BEST STORIES
Kurt Elling Featuring Danilo Pérez
- MODERN ANCESTORS
- HOLY ROOM: LIVE AT ALTE OPER
Somi With Frankfurt Radio Big Band
- WHAT’S THE HURRY
33. Best Jazz Instrumental Album
For albums containing at least 51% playing time of new instrumental jazz recordings.
- ON THE TENDER SPOT OF EVERY CALLOUSED MOMENT
- WAITING GAME
Terri Lyne Carrington And Social Science
- HAPPENING: LIVE AT THE VILLAGE VANGUARD
- TRILOGY 2
Chick Corea, Christian McBride & Brian Blade
Redman Mehldau McBride Blade
34. Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album
For albums containing at least 51% playing time of new ensemble jazz recordings.
- DIALOGUES ON RACE
- MONK’ESTRA PLAYS JOHN BEASLEY
- THE INTANGIBLE BETWEEN
Orrin Evans And The Captain Black Big Band
- SONGS YOU LIKE A LOT
John Hollenbeck With Theo Bleckmann, Kate McGarry, Gary Versace And The Frankfurt Radio Big Band
- DATA LORDS
Maria Schneider Orchestra
35. Best Latin Jazz Album
For vocal or instrumental albums containing at least 51% playing time of newly recorded material. The intent of this category is to recognize recordings that represent the blending of jazz with Latin, Iberian-American, Brazilian, and Argentinian tango music.
Afro-Peruvian Jazz Orchestra
- FOUR QUESTIONS
Arturo O’Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra
- CITY OF DREAMS
- VIENTO Y TIEMPO – LIVE AT BLUE NOTE TOKYO
Gonzalo Rubalcaba & Aymée Nuviola
- TRANE’S DELIGHT
62. Best Instrumental Composition
A Composer’s Award for an original composition (not an adaptation) first released during the Eligibility Year. Singles or Tracks only.
- BABY JACK
Arturo O’Farrill, composer (Arturo O’Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra)
- BE WATER II
Christian Sands, composer (Christian Sands)
Alexandre Desplat, composer (Alexandre Desplat)
Maria Schneider, composer (Maria Schneider)
Remy Le Boeuf, composer (Remy Le Boeuf’s Assembly Of Shadows Featuring Anna Webber & Eric Miller)
63. Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella
An Arranger’s Award. (Artist names appear in parentheses.) Singles or Tracks only.
- BATHROOM DANCE
Hildur Guðnadóttir, arranger (Hildur Guðnadóttir)
- DONNA LEE
John Beasley, arranger (John Beasley)
Remy Le Boeuf, arranger (Remy Le Boeuf’s Assembly Of Shadows)
- LIFT EVERY VOICE AND SING
Alvin Chea & Jarrett Johnson, arrangers (Jarrett Johnson Featuring Alvin Chea)
- URANUS: THE MAGICIAN
Jeremy Levy, arranger (Jeremy Levy Jazz Orchestra)
64. Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals
An Arranger’s Award. (Artist names appear in parentheses.) Singles or Tracks only.
- ASAS FECHADAS
John Beasley & Maria Mendes, arrangers (Maria Mendes Featuring John Beasley & Orkest Metropole)
- DESERT SONG
Erin Bentlage, Sara Gazarek, Johnaye Kendrick & Amanda Taylor, arrangers (Säje)
- FROM THIS PLACE
Alan Broadbent & Pat Metheny, arrangers (Pat Metheny Featuring Meshell Ndegeocello)
- HE WON’T HOLD YOU
Jacob Collier, arranger (Jacob Collier Featuring Rapsody)
- SLOW BURN
Talia Billig, Nic Hard & Becca Stevens, arrangers (Becca Stevens Featuring Jacob Collier, Mark Lettieri, Justin Stanton, Jordan Perlson, Nic Hard, Keita Ogawa, Marcelo Woloski & Nate Werth)
11. Best Contemporary Instrumental Album
For albums containing approximately 51% or more playing time of instrumental material. For albums containing at least 51% playing time of new recordings.
Christian Scott Atunde Adjuah
- CHRONOLOGY OF A DREAM: LIVE AT THE VILLAGE VANGUARD
- TAKE THE STAIRS
Grégoire Maret, Romain Collin & Bill Frisell
- LIVE AT THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL
The 2017 Newport Jazz Festival was, as usual, a showcase and a proving ground for great soloists. Here’s my recap, concentrating on a few of the finest performances I heard, including those of vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant (above) who performed with the Aaron Diehl Trio; the Maria Schneider Orchestra; the Benny Golson Quartet; and the Christian McBride Big Band.
…but, rather, here are my favorite albums of 2016. Why the distinction? I think it’s silly and self-aggrandizing for anyone, however expert their ears, to say “These are the 10 best albums of the year.” I get that people, myself included, have an insatiable appetite to rank things, perhaps to make the world seem a little more orderly. But music is not science. Its virtues resist quantification.
Many 10-best lists seem to me primarily driven by critical notions of what sounds the most innovative, hence the usual bias toward the avant-garde. That’s fine. But I feel that jazz (and music in general) is not primarily about innovation or progress. It should appeal to the heart as well as the head.
I do prize originality and think jazz should sound new and of its time. But that newness is all about individuality, not some intellectual conceit of progress. A great album or song should sound like the honest expression of no one but this artist. There’s another practical reason I don’t call these “the best” albums: there are many hundreds of jazz and jazz-related CDs issued every year. Nobody can listen to everything, and I don’t pretend to have heard them all.
The list that follows is an expanded version of the one I supplied to The 2016 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll. The NPR poll showed, by the way, that there is essentially no critical consensus on what the year’s “best” albums were. The album that came in first place, Henry Threadgill’s Old Locks and Irregular Verbs, received a mere 41 votes out of the 137 critics and journalists polled.
Here are my favorites, the albums I heard this year that moved me on a personal, emotional and intellectual level. Maybe they will move you, too.
1. Trio Corrente, Vol. 3 (Independent release) – Using Brazilian pop and folkloric building blocks, the Sao Paulo-based trio of Fabio Torres (piano), Paulo Paulelli (bass) and Edu Ribeiro (drums) make joyful music of wild originality with jaw-dropping rhythmic precision. They shared a Grammy award in 2014 with clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera for the album Song for Maura. Still they are my candidate for the best band that almost nobody in the U.S. has heard of. (In the U.S. you can hear their most recent albums on Spotify.)
2. Peter Bernstein – Let Loose (Smoke Sessions) – A great album by one of my favorite guitarists. With fabulous backing by pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Doug Weiss, and drummer Bill Stewart, Bernstein is free to “let loose” like a horn player, and, boy, does he.
3. Gregory Porter – Take Me to the Alley (Blue Note) – The burnished baritone returns with a new batch of originals that take his songwriting to a whole new level.
4. Bill Charlap – Notes from New York (Impulse) – The new album from the impeccable pianist is a master class in class. I have given only three albums five stars. This is one of them.
5. Tillery (Rebecca Martin, Becca Stevens, Gretchen Parlato) (Larrecca Music) – Tillery combines the talents of three of today’s most interesting singer-songwriters: Becca Stevens, Rebecca Martin, and Gretchen Parlato. On their debut album, the exquisite songs defy easy categorization; maybe that’s why I like them so much.
6. George Coleman – A Master Speaks (Smoke Sessions) — The 80-year-old tenor saxophonist, a NEA Jazz Master and Miles Davis Quintet alumnus, released his first album as a leader in 20 years with an all-star band – and it’s excellent.
7. Snarky Puppy – Family Dinner, Vol. 2 (Decca-Ground Up Records) The jazz-rock-funk collective from Denton, TX is highly popular, and deservedly so. Led by bassist/arranger Michael League, these guys have big ears for great music from all over the world. Here they are with singer/songwriter Becca Stevens and the Swedish band Väsen, playing a song by Stevens.
8. Cyrille Aimée – Let’s Get Lost (Mack Avenue) – A fabulous performance by the French jazz singer with the unforgettable voice.
9. Fred Hersch – Sunday Night at the Vanguard (Palmetto) – Another brilliant outing by one of the best piano trios in jazz.
10. Jack DeJohnette • Ravi Coltrane • Matthew Garrison — In Movement (ECM)
11. Trio da Paz, 30 (Zoho) – Celebrating its 30th anniversary as a trio, the Brazilian expatriate supergroup of guitarist Romero Lubambo, bassist Nilson Matta and drummer Duduka da Fonseca continues to impress with its unique blend of Brazilian and American jazz.
12. Roberta Piket, One for Marian (Thirteenth Note Records)
13. Catherine Russell – Harlem on My Mind (Jazz Village)
14. David Bowie – Blackstar (Columbia)
15. Caetano Veloso & Gilberto Gil – Dois Amigos (Nonesuch)
My Favorite Reissues or Historical albums:
1) Bill Evans – Some Other Time: The Lost Session from The Black Forest (Resonance Records)
2) The Savory Collection, Vol. 1 (Apple Music)
3) Miles Davis Quintet: Freedom Jazz Dance: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 5 (Columbia/Legacy)
Favorite Vocal Album:
Cyrille Aimée – Let’s Get Lost (Mack Avenue)
Favorite Debut album:
Jacob Collier – In My Room (Membran/Qwest)
Favorite Latin jazz album:
Trio Corrente, Vol. 3. (Independent release)
Honorable mentions: Joey Alexander – Countdown (Motema); Leslie Pintchik – True North (Pinch Hard); Nels Cline, Lovers (Blue Note); Dave Stryker – 8 Track II (Strike Zone); Kenny Barron – Book of Intuition (Verve) ; John Scofield – Country for Old Men (Impulse); Joshua Redman and Brad Mehldau – Nearness (Nonesuch); Ted Nash – Presidential Suite (Motema); Russell Malone, All About Melody (HighNote)
What a swell party last night (6/30/15) at Jazz at Lincoln Center for launch of a new JALC-branded jazz record label, to be called Blue Engine Records. The turnout included these jazz masters and many more of the greatest musicians in New York, among them Christian McBride, Aaron Diehl, Nilson Matta, Ted Nash, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Lew Tabackin, and Catherine Russell. My report will be posted at DownBeat.com tomorrow (July 2).